Class project becomes outdoor classroom
An ongoing project of students at James Williams Middle School has turned into much more.
By Jared Raney
Two years ago, the science department at James Williams Middle School came up with an idea. The idea was simple; to create an ongoing, outdoor project that would give the kids a chance to learn hands-on.
What resulted is a learning environment they call an interpretive nature trail. Today the trail takes up a large swath of the forest on the western side of the school.
This spring the 7th and 8th grade classes added to the project. It now features a perennial garden, vegetable patch, as well as bat and bee habitats.
“It really kind of grew, from the start of the project, really quickly grew into a large project,” said 7th grade science teacher Lisa Swaney. “The goal is to eventually make this into just our outdoor classroom… I think it’s been really rewarding and amazing.”
Though it started small, it has evolved into something much more than a simple class project. It’s an interactive ecosystem, one that Swaney and the other science teachers hope to share beyond their classes.
“I’m hoping the nature trail, that people will use it, because I really do think that this has become a community project,” Swaney said.
Several grants made the vision possible, two from the Hodag Schools Foundation and a LEAN grant from Oneida County.
The project is still ongoing—the vegetable garden will be cared for by students through the summer, and in following years the science department will maintain, add onto and learn from the space.
“It’s nice, it’s a change from sitting in the classroom all day,” said Gwen Swierczynski, a student in Mrs. Swaney’s 7th grade science class. “You also feel like you are a part of something big.”
“It’s really fun getting to see it all grow,” said Madison Carpenter, another student in the class.
On Wednesday, the students spent their last day in science class wandering the trails and, as Swaney said, appreciating what they’ve done and taking pride in their accomplishment.